Welcome to the website of the Digital Media Law Project. The DMLP was a project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society from 2007 to 2014. Due to popular demand the Berkman Klein Center is keeping the website online, but please note that the website and its contents are no longer being updated. Please check any information you find here for accuracy and completeness.
This interview of Wael Abbas sheds some light on the legal and political climate for bloggers in Egypt. While Wael has not been detained by the Egyptian security forces for his blogging, the government has put him under surveillance and harassed him and his family, both electronically and otherwise. He says that one of his biggest fears is "somebody filing a lawsuit against [him], accusing [him] of defaming Egypt or spreading false rumors -- the usual stuff that is used against journalists in Egypt."
Following up on our posting yesterday about WordPress in Turkey, the MidEast Youth project has launched a petition calling on the Turkish government to invalidate the judicial decision to block the entire WordPress blog-hosting service in that country. The petition states:
Reports (here, here) indicate that WordPress.com, in its entirety, has been blocked in Turkey. People trying to visit the website get the following message: "Access to this site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2007/195 of T.C. Fatih 2.Civil Court of First Instance." The founding developer of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, began writing about the situation last week on his personal blog, and he received a letter on Saturday night from a Turkish attorney representing Mr. Adnan Oktar, who apparently is a Turkish national and the author of books written under the pen name Harun Yahya. Mr. Oktar's attorney claims that another Turkish national, Edip Yuksel, started a number of WordPress blogs dedicated to defaming his client. The attorney says that he sent a number of letters complaining about the alleged defamatory statements to the WordPress legal department and apparently to Matt personally. According to the letter, he then brought the matter before a Turkish court, which granted Mr. Oktar's request to block access to WordPress.com in Turkey. The letter demands that WordPress "remove and prohibit any blogs in [its] site that contain my client's name Adnan Oktar or his pen name Harun Yahya or various combinations of these 4 names."
Reporters Without Borders is reporting that a Chinese court in the southeastern province of Zhejiang sentenced lawyer and cyber-dissident Chen Shuqing to four years imprisonment for posting articles critical of the government on the Internet:
Press Gazette (UK): MPs outlaw satire in New Zealand. New Zealand's Parliament has voted itself far-reaching powers to control satire and ridicule of MPs in Parliament, attracting a storm of media and academic criticism.
To follow up on Dan Gillmor's post earlier today, disturbing reports (here, here, and here) are emerging about the legal climate for bloggers in Malaysia. Yesterday, police detained Raja Petra Kamarudin, a prominent political commentator and blogger. They interrogated him for eight hours about articles he has posted recently and about user comments to his postings. Kamarudin is the editor of one of Malaysia's most popular political websites, Malaysia Today, which draws approximately 340,000 visitors a day, according to Chow Kum Hor of the Straits Times. The police summoned Kamarudin to Dang Wangi district police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, following a complaint by the ruling United Malays National Organization on Monday, claiming that Kamarudin had insulted the king and Islam on his website.
Upon his release from detention, Kamarudin wrote to his readers, emphasizing the government's interest in user comments and warning that "what you post in the comments section may get me sent to jail under the Sedition Act." According to Reporters Without Borders (RWB), Kamarudin faces a possible three-year prison sentence. Charles Ramendran of the Sun reports that Kamarudin's wife said that this is the second time her husband has been brought in for questioning over a posting on his website. The police questioned him last year over a posting about the sale of state titles, but did not formally charge him.
BBC: Malaysia cracks down on bloggers. The Malaysian government has warned it could use tough anti-terrorism laws against bloggers who insult Islam or the country's king.
I remember visiting Malaysia in late 2001, and being assured by people in business and government that the Internet was going to truly remain a free-speech zone (unlike the highly regulated traditional media).
According to a recent article in Ars Technica, the Chinese government withdrew a proposal to require all bloggers in China to register their real identities.
The government-regulated Internet Society of China (ISC) said that real-name registration would now only be "encouraged" but not required, according to the Xinhua news agency. . . . The ISC's new code is still in draft, so changes might still be made before it is finalized.
While China has been the subject of some excellent studies concerning the government's use of technical measures to control access to information, including a recent report by the Open Net Initiative, there hasn't been a great deal of focus on the use of law to limit and censor citizen media within China and other countries that actively filter information. If you are aware of countries that have, or are considering, registration requirements for bloggers or other citizen media, please let us know.
In addition, I've been receiving a lot of interest from people within and outside China to include Chinese law in our legal guide and other resources. We will be adding that material to the site as soon as we can.
(Disclosure: The Open Net Initiative, like the CMLP, is a joint project of the Berkman Center.)
Interesting article in today's New York Times about Whosarat.com, which says it has identified 4,300 informers and 400 undercover agents, many of them from electronic court records. According to a Justice Department official quoted in the piece:
We are looking for contributing authors with expertise in media law, intellectual property, First Amendment, and other related fields to join us as guest bloggers. If you are interested, please contact us for more details.